Natalie Briaud Pine spent nearly a decade in finance before she called her mom from London, where she was an investment banking analyst for Goldman Sachs, and asked if there might be a role for her in Bryan, Texas, at Briaud Financial Advisors. She felt her mother's excitement at running her own business and admired her success. "I wanted to work with someone who had her interests aligned with the client," Natalie says.
Lucky you, if like Janet Briaud, Judi Brown, Lew and Karen Altfest, and Ron Weade, your business-minded child is willing and able to join you in your practice and keep the lights on when you retire. Will you be a mentor in your adult child's early career - or embrace an accomplished professional?
The answer may depend on your gender or, more fundamentally, your attitude. Interviews with a half-dozen families suggest that, in the planning world, children arrive at a mother's firm ready for a top role, while fathers are more likely to be hands-on mentors.
Either way, you can be confident your child will research such a decision with the care of a planner. Briaud Pine sat down with every one of the family firm's employees before signing on. So did Andrew Altfest. In all cases, the key to success was mutual respect.
Briaud Pine's first job at Briaud Financial Advisors was chief operating officer. This year, at 31, she became a partner, along with her husband, Roger Pine, a CFA and former oil and gas consultant.
Richard Brown joined his mother, Judi, as chief executive officer 16 years ago. "My mother's attitude was always, 'You can do whatever you want to do,'" says Richard, who began a career in real estate after college with his father, a land developer. In his first month at Minneapolis-based JNBA Financial Advisors, Richard made radical changes - with his mother's approval.
"We left LPL, 90% of our employees left or were let go and we found a new custodian," he recalls. Within three months, he was reorganizing client services into a team approach. "I couldn't have done this with my father," Richard says. "He would not have been as amenable as my mother was to my ideas. He used to say, 'God gave you two ears and one mouth so you'll listen twice as much as you talk!' "
When she speaks of Andrew, Karen Altfest is full of enthusiasm. "Our son had such great ideas," she says. "He just hit the ground running."
Since joining the firm in 2003, Andrew, now executive vice president of strategy and investments at Altfest Personal Wealth Management in New York, has helped identify client groups such as dentists and nonprofits and win new business. "He'd been looking over our shoulder without our knowing it," she says. "He was way ahead of us."
"If I were just like my father or just like my mother, it probably wouldn't have worked," Andrew muses. "But because I bring the strengths and assets of both of them, it does."
Andrew is a kind of glue between his parents' different styles. "My father is an investment guru," he says. "His idea of a pleasant weekend is to write an article. My mom loves working with clients, and she has a personal mission to educate women."
When the company decided to develop tax management planning services, Andrew worked with his dad on the technical aspects. With his mom and others, he helped create a survey to identify clients' tax planning needs. He now leads the project, which provides customized analysis on tax-loss harvesting and charitable giving.
Casey Weade didn't need to sit down with his father's employees to make his career move. The 25-year-old CFP had been a fixture around his dad's office since high school. Nonetheless, his position as vice president of Howard Bailey Financial in Ft. Wayne, Ind. - where his dad, Ron Weade, is president and principal financial advisor - came as a surprise.
Casey bought his first stocks as a preteen, but was considering a career in health care when he entered college. Although he switched to business after a year, he still shied away from working with his dad. Interviews with firms like Charles Schwab changed his mind.
"When I got out of college, I had a little apprehension that we might disagree," he says. "Now I can't think of one time we actually butted heads! I think it's because I believe in what he's doing absolutely." In addition, Casey realized he had "the opportunity to work with someone who had been in the business for 30 years. No one else was going to offer me the kind of coaching I could get from my dad." His dad adds, "It's kind of neat to have Casey here."
The firm has given Casey enough discretion to shine. A marketing minor in college, Ron developed a comprehensive marketing program that includes new technology, seminars, teaching materials and direct mail. "I didn't have time to mess with marketing until Casey came along," Ron says. "We were doing some advertising but not targeting the right markets."
Ron hopes to teach Casey his conservative investment style, which is based on strategic reallocation. "I want to stay involved with the business until I'm 75 or 80," the 61-year-old says, "but I'd like to see Casey make it grow. He has the education, he just needs support from me on the way I invest." The firm recently opened a second office 500 miles away in Asheville, N.C., where Casey and his new wife plan to move.
Sometimes a parent may join a child in creating a new firm. Both Shannon Eusey and David John Marotta are working with their fathers, but at firms they founded as equals.
Eusey, 41, invited her dad, Garth Flint, soon to turn 70, to join her in creating Beacon Pointe Advisors in Newport Beach, Calif., nine years ago. At the time, Eusey was a portfolio manager at Roxbury Capital Management. Flint was an independent advisor with career stops at Merrill Lynch and Kidder Peabody. "I had heard the horror stories of working with a parent or even a sibling," Eusey says. "I went in with open eyes."
They created a board with three non-family members. "Often, we don't see eye to eye, but with three different people to defuse things, it works well," she says. Defining their "very different" roles has also helped, she adds. "He's the CEO, involved with clients and sales; I'm the president, in charge of daily operations. We respect each other's role."
Eusey considers her dad "a tremendous mentor, both in the business and outside." Although she doesn't use her maiden name professionally, most clients are aware of the family connection. "It's a great thing for clients to know," Eusey says. "We wanted to build a solid business that relates the client to the firm, not to one person."
The Marottas came together after David's parents sold their planning firm but asked David to help with a few remaining clients. George Marotta saw David as a potential planner. "He had degrees in electrical engineering, computer science and philosophy," the elder Marotta says, "and he is a strategist, a game player. He started beating me at chess at age 8." But George, now 85, never expected his son to give up his teaching career.
In 2000, however, David founded Marotta Wealth Management in Charlottesville, Va., building on just a few million dollars in assets to close to $200 million today. "My parents knew I would love the business, but I didn't know! After re-creating it from scratch, I understood it better," David says.
The new firm weds his father's investment artistry with his technological analysis and computer programming expertise. The 50-year-old Marotta says: "I think it was the best of all possible worlds. I inherited a mentor, I didn't inherit his success."
Nancy R. Mandellis a freelance writer in Clifton, N.J., and a former managing editor of OnWallStreet.